Restaurant News: The scoop on ghost kitchens, plus delicious ways to celebrate Pi Day

Chk-A-Boom takeout fare, packed with care.

Virtual kitchens are called by many names. They are commercial facilities purpose-built to produce food specifically for delivery. These commissary kitchens are sometimes known as ghost kitchens, shared kitchens or virtual kitchens with the delivery-only food brands operating within them called virtual restaurants. Not a brand-new concept. I’ve certainly ordered Asian takeout, and readers I’m sure you have too.

Delivery-only restaurants, which have proliferated during the pandemic, could change the way the industry does business for years to come. Restaurants utilize any and all resources to make ends meet. Some share their space. Ghost or dark kitchens can be urban warehouses containing multiple small kitchens leased by a restaurant or restaurant’s subcontractor for delivery only, and orders are often delivered by “third-party aggregators” such as DoorDash, Uber Eats or Grubhub.

Yet another way to support one of our local restaurants is a perfect model of how this works.

An empty dining room at Arnie’s..

Steve Price, general manager and owner of Arnie’s Restaurants, with locations in Edmonds, Mukilteo and Issaquah, said in a recent interview that “Until Arnie’s can reopen,” they’re trying to be as creative as they can be.

“We had obviously a lot of excess capacity because the restaurants have been closed.We have very large restaurants.We have large kitchens, large staffs. We went into the takeout business out of necessity,” he said. “And in that necessity was born what we call a virtual kitchen. It’s our Chk-A-Boom concept. It’s a buttermilk-fried chicken sandwich and grilled chicken sandwiches.”

Chk-A-Boom is a unique restaurant not because they are delivery and pickup centric,  but they operate out of your favorite restaurants, such as Arnie’s. When you buy from Chk-A-Boom, you support a local restaurant. Here are some examples of Chk-A-Boom fare:

Not a fan of chicken? Well, there are options for you too: fish and chips, or a bronzed salmon burger.

Beer-battered cod

Beer-battered true cod and chips delighted my non-meat eater. Portions were so generous we all were able to taste the crisp battered fish and a few nice fat fries. The slaw that accompanied was very generous as well. I’d ordered up a couple of extra slaw sides, but one would have been plenty.

Pickle fries

Speaking of sides, pickle fries were a hit. Wow, it’s like a jar of pickles were used in our order. Very thin and crisp coating on each quarter of the pickled cukes made for delicious supplement to the meal.

While other restaurants are closed for in-house dining, at Chk-A-Boom it is business as usual. Price asks our community to support takeout at Arnie’s, Chk-A-Boom, and anywhere they can in order to bridge the gap, until people can return to the restaurant for in-person dining.

Arnies has been in business for almost 45 years, which means they have multigenerational customers. “We know people that we knew the grandmothers when they were kids and the grandkids now,” Price said. He compares a restaurant to an engine, an economic engine to our communities. “People move into communities because of restaurants, they like to talk about restaurants; they love the pictures and all that kind of stuff. So it’s very, very good for the community.”

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A celebrity debut in Seattle and a great example of the “cloud kitchen” concept

Mega-popular Food Network host Guy Fieri recently launched a chain of delivery-only restaurants/ghost kitchens across the U.S., including one right here in Seattle that operates out of a Buca di Beppo location in South Lake Union. Check out the menu at Guy Fieri’s Flavortown Kitchen: guysflavortownkitchen.com

Our favorite flashy Food Network host, he offers party-friendly snacks, such as bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers, cheese steak egg rolls, and wings slathered in Fieri’s bourbon brown sugar barbecue sauce:

There’s also a lineup of burgers, sandwiches, pastas, and salads, as well as a couple of desserts.

I usually don’t order cake, but the whiskey chocolate slice called my name. I was, however, able to resist a truly crazy dessert, and one I’d expect Guy to choose, hands down — It’s called the “cheesecake challenge,” a hefty slice topped with salted potato chips, crushed pretzels, and thick fudge sauce.

Whiskey cake from Flavortown.

Flavortown isn’t the first time a celebrity-endorsed ghost kitchen appeared in our area.

Back in December, Mariah Carey’s Cookies came to town, spreading some of the pop singer’s branded holiday cheer. Both that operation and Fieri’s come from the same company, Virtual Dining Concepts. Like Carey’s cookie “shop,” Flavortown Kitchen has outposts from coast to coast, covering more than 20 different cities.

Is this the future of our restaurant industry? Research shows that food delivery is set to grow to a $200 billion industry by 2025, due to shifting changes in behavior, with nearly half of consumers preferring to eat at home. Uber Eats is quoted being even more optimistic than most, they say the value the market at $795 billion.

With 91 million monthly users, Uber Eats is currently the most popular food delivery app. Consumers willingness has increased and they no longer flinch at paying a significant amount for the convenience of having their food delivered.

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On March 14, Celebrate Pi Day… with pie of course

Nothin’ “irrational” about this number…It’s one of the best excuses I can find to rationalize the purchase of round pastry objects… Pizza Pie, or just good old dessert-type pie. Here’s the history behind Pi Day. While we’ve published fine examples of the savory type of pie recently, it’s been a while since I have highlighted my favorite baked dessert item — pie. cakes, cobblers, puddings, etc… all very tasty. However, my first choice to end any meal on a sweet note is a circular pastry filled with fruit, preferable rhubarb either straight up or supplemented with strawberry or raspberry.  I grew up with a huge rhubarb bush right outside the door, and granted — it is an acquired taste.

Baking is all the rage these days, but if you are not so inclined we have a fabulous resources in our community — Snohomish Pie Co. They’ve been serving pie in the Pacific Northwest for over 20 years, starting in Snohomish and adding a second location at 5602 232nd St. S.W., Mountlake Terrace.

Here’s the menu and available on both Saturday, March 13 and Sunday, March 14. They advise that menu items will be for first-come, first-served only: 3-inch mini apple berry crumb, apple crumb and Northwest berry pies, and 9-inch whole Tagalong cream and raspberry cream pies (available March 12-14).

So, get PIE-pared, because Snohomish Pie Co. is going to make this weekend one worth celebrating.

— By Kathy Passage

A specialty gourmet food broker for over 30 years, Kathy Passage has in-depth knowledge on food and the special qualities of ingredients used in the exquisite products she helped bring to market. Kathy brings this unique perspective from the “other side of the plate” to writing about the food and restaurant scene in Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace.

 

 

 

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